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The Wind is Rising voice casting - Hideaki Anno

Wednesday 26th June 2013

Andrew Osmond on the oddest casting decision in recent memory… or is it…?

This May, anime fans were started by what seemed like a late April Fool – the announcement that Hideaki Anno, creator of Evangelion, would take the lead voice role in this summer’s Miyazaki movie, Kaze Tachinu (The Wind is Rising). Let’s emphasise, that’s the lead voice-role. Anno will play Jiro Horiskoshi, a real-life fighter plane engineer during World War II, whose story is told in Miyazaki’s film. That Miyazaki, long associated with fantasy, is making a historical drama in animation is startling too, but that’s another story. (As is the question of how a film about a man who designed Japanese war planes will play in America…)

So, what on earth gives? It sometimes happens that animation professionals turn up in voice roles. Anno himself guested in Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi, a TV show, and in FLCL. It’s not just anime. In Pixar movies, directors do voices in test versions of their films, and sometimes the voice stays in the final product. Brad Bird voiced the domineering super-suit designer Edna Mole in The Incredibles (stealing his own film), and Andrew Stanton was surfer turtle Crush in Finding Nemo. And who do you think voiced Mickey Mouse in Disney’s early days?

But it’s quite a jump from a guest role to a movie lead! A Ghibli film starring the creator of a huge rival franchise… Do we smell a publicity stunt? Ghibli is the studio that put the inexperienced son of Miyazaki in the director’s chair for Tales from Earthsea, then publicised his bust-ups with his dad. Goro Miyazaki himself said the situation was ‘engineered’ by the studio’s then president, Toshio Suzuki, a former journalist creating news.

According to the “Anime Anime” website, Suzuki was indeed involved with choosing Anno for the role, although the same story claims Miyazaki wanted someone “who could deliver his lines fast and smoothly and with a dignified reserve.” In his early films, Miyazaki often used anime voice professionals, including legends like Mayumi Tanaka – she was Pazu in Laputa, and now Luffy in One Piece – and Minami Takayama, who voiced Kiki and is now Detective Conan. Today, though, Miyazaki tends to look elsewhere for voice talent, perhaps feeling that “anime voices” sound over-engineered.

Whatever the truth, Miyazaki and Anno have quite a history together. Let’s join the dots..

Very early in his career, young Anno worked for Miyazaki on his 1984 film Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind. Specifically, Anno created its best animation – the astonishing God Warrior that appears at the climax. It’s a massive melting giant with great green eyes, blasting the world with explosive laser-beams, as its flesh pours off its bones. You can glimpse it in action at the very beginning of this Korean trailer, and again a minute in. See if it reminds you of any other Anno anime…(Warning – the trailer is very spoilerish if you haven’t seen the film.)

Arguably, though, Anno’s relationship with Miyazaki – at least as a fan – even preceded Nausicaa. Already a pro, having cut his teeth as a key animator on the 1982 Macross, he had helped animate a pair of brilliant fan films, made for the “Daicon” anime convention in Japan. The film’s bunny-suited heroine looks Miyazaki-ish, and may have been partly modelled on Clarisse, the princess in Miyazaki’s Castle of Cagliostro. (Clarisse was hugely popular with anime fans, and is retrospectively counted as anime’s first “moe” star, though don’t tell Miyazaki that!)

Here’s the second Daicon film, made in 1983. Nausicaa, already popular as a manga character, can be glimpsed – see if you can spot her!

In October 1983, Anno saw an advertisement in the magazine Animage. The anime film of Nausicaa was falling behind schedule, and animators were needed. On the Nausicaa DVD, Toshio Suzuki recalled Anno’s appearance: “One day he just showed up. Afterwards I realised how much guts it must have taken to walk right in and hand Miyazaki samples of his work.”

Anno was hired, and set to animating the God Warrior. According to Suzuki, “Miyazaki wanted something with impact, very detailed, with a unique sense of movement.” Among the stories of Anno’s time on Nausicaa, it’s said that he suffered from terrible diarrhea, which his colleagues joked was the God Warrior’s curse. Miyazaki sent him a memo saying, “Use two colours for the smoke. If you use three colors, I kill you!” The director also forced Anno to restrict the number of frames in the God Warrior sequence. Anno wanted to die when he saw the final result. That the terrific scene didn’t satisfy him speaks volumes about Anno’s drive, his obsession with bringing titanic images to anime.

Anno’s feelings on Ghibli and Miyazaki are revealed in an essay for the Japanese Studio Ghibli box set; it’s unofficially translated by Mark Neidengard here. It’s no fannish hagiography. Anno accuses Ghibli of playing safe and avoiding dark emotions (though you could argue that Seita, the boy character in Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies, isn’t far from Eva’s Shinji). Subversively, Anno notes Ghibli’s tendency to separate itself from anime – the studio hates its work being classed as such – and suggests it lost a vital creative spark as a result.

Yet Anno also thanks Miyazaki as one of his two great teachers, together with Ichiro Itano, the legendary “mecha animation” director of Macross (credited on Anno’s new Evangelion movie for “CG Supervision” and “Animation Materials”). Anno seems less interested in Miyazaki’s anime than his manga – namely his epic, thousand-page Nausicaa strip that Miyazaki continued writing a decade after the film.

In an English-language interview with Miyazaki for the Japanese magazine Comic Box, we learn that Anno wanted to write a story starring Nausicaa’s warrior princess, Kushana. Miyazaki scoffs at the idea: “He just wants to play war games.” Intriguingly, Kushana’s manga backstory includes a visit to her mother, who’s been driven mad and clutches a doll she insists is her daughter. Evangelion fans (at least those who’ve seen the TV version) should find that familiar…

Other Evangelion fans have made an even more subversive suggestion – that Shinji’s heartless dad Gendo is really Miyazaki! (After all, everyone knows Shinji is really Anno, and who is Anno’s father figure?) The rival brands clashed in summer 1997, when Princess Mononoke played in Japanese cinemas against Anno’s End of Evangelion. Princess Mononoke was advertised with the tagline, “Live!” End of Evangelion had “I wish everyone would die!”

After that, you might think that Anno and Miyazaki would part for good. Then last year, Anno mounted a nostalgic exhibition in Tokyo of old-school special effects, covered in this blog. Studio Ghibli produced the exhibition’s centrepiece – a brand-new mini monster-movie, featuring Nausicaa’s God Warrior, set loose on present-day Tokyo. As we said at the time, “The film is a weird but impressive experience, with many deliberately stylised (or “bad”) effect shots, and no real human characters… What’s most impressive is less the Cthulhu-like monster, but the destruction it wreaks. Offices burst in goopy gouts of lava; city districts flame in lovely lines of fireworks.”

The credited director was Shinji Higuchi (who’d revived the Gamera monster turtle franchise), but the film seemed practically designed to get anime fans thinking of the link between Anno and Miyazaki. A revised version was double-billed with the cinema release of Evangelion 3.0 – You Can (Not) Redo, bringing the brands closer still. And now, with Kaze Tachinu, the two anime deities are finally coming together again.

If this was anime, it would surely herald the Third Impact. In the real world… well, now Anno is a Ghibli voice-actor. Is it too far-fetched to wonder that he might be the next Ghibli director as well?


Akira (the Collector\'s Edition) Triple Play Edition (incl. Blu-ray, Dvd, Digital Copy)

was £29.99
Iconic and game-changing, Akira is the definitive anime masterpiece! Katsuhiro Otomo’s landmark cyberpunk classic obliterated the boundaries of Japanese animation and forced the world to look into the future. Akira’s arrival shattered traditional thinking, creating space for movies like The Matrix to be dreamed into brutal reality.

Neo-Tokyo, 2019. The city is being rebuilt post World War III when two high school drop outs, Kaneda and Tetsuo stumble across a secret government project to develop a new weapon - telekinetic humans. After Tetsuo is captured by the military and experimented on, he gains psychic abilities and learns about the existence of the project's most powerful subject, Akira. Both dangerous and destructive, Kaneda must take it upon himself to stop both Tetsuo and Akira before things get out of control and the city is destroyed once again. 
AKIRA The Collector’s Edition features both the original 1988 Streamline English dub and the 2001

Pioneer/Animaze English dub!



Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira then and now

Helen McCarthy examines Katsuhiro Otomo’s landmark Akira, then and now
1988 in Japan: Yamaha Motors won the J-League but Nissan won the Cup. Western pop divas Bananarama, Kylie and Tiffany were on TV. Japanese real estate values climbed so high that the Imperial Palace garden was worth more than the State of California, and Tokyo’s Chiyoda ward had a higher market value than Canada. The Government signed the FIRST Basel Accord, triggering a crash that wiped out half Japan’s stock market. Katsuhiro Omoto’s movie Akira premiered on 16th July.

Akira's Ancestors

Andrew Osmond on the unexpected forerunners of Neo-Tokyo
In Akira’s opening moments, a sphere of white light appears from nowhere in the centre of Tokyo, and swells to obliterate the city. Many Western critics saw the image as a symbol of the Bomb, like the earlier Japanese pop-culture icon, Godzilla. But the designer apocalypse could be taken as Akira’s own mission statement – to be a new kind of entertainment, blowing away its peers and reshaping the cinema landscape.

The Impact of Akira

Andrew Osmond reviews the reviews from 20 years ago.
On its explosive arrival in the West, Akira crossed the Pacific to catch the generation that grew up on the films of Spielberg and Lucas; it was also the generation that read adult superhero strips such as Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. Akira, though, offered the shock-and-awe widescreen violence akin to that of enfant terrible live-action director, Paul Verhoeven. For example, both Akira and Verhoeven’s Robocop (1987) have a gory money-shot scene in their early minutes, in which a luckless bit-part player is graphically torn apart by a hail of bullets. Unsurprisingly, such imagery excited reviewers.

Akira 25th Anniversary Screenings

Your chance to see it in the cinema in the UK
Neo-Tokyo is about to E.X.P.L.O.D.E. Katsuhiro Otomo’s debut animated feature AKIRA had its Japanese premiere on 16th July 1988. We are very proud to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of what is undoubtedly, one of the most celebrated animated movies of all time. Voted by Empire readers as one of the top 100 best films ever and cited by everyone from James Cameron, Ridley Scott, Daft Punk and Kanye West as a massive influence on their work, AKIRA kick-started the anime business all over the world, opening the doors for everything from Pokémon to Princess Mononoke.

The Art of Akira

Joe Peacock tracks down the original images from the anime classic
Watching Akira for the first time provokes a universal reaction of awe. And justifiably so: there’s often an overwhelming sense among audiences that this animated film is unlike any other they’ve ever seen. Casual viewers won’t be able to put their finger on it; they just know that Akira is visually striking. Art and illustration aficionados appreciate the intricacy of individual scenes, sometimes pausing the film to appreciate the detail in a particular frame.

Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira then and now

Helen McCarthy examines Katsuhiro Otomo’s landmark Akira, then and now
1988 in Japan: Yamaha Motors won the J-League but Nissan won the Cup. Western pop divas Bananarama, Kylie and Tiffany were on TV. Japanese real estate values climbed so high that the Imperial Palace garden was worth more than the State of California, and Tokyo’s Chiyoda ward had a higher market value than Canada. The Government signed the FIRST Basel Accord, triggering a crash that wiped out half Japan’s stock market. Katsuhiro Omoto’s movie Akira premiered on 16th July.


Wolf Children and Families

In search of Mamoru Hosoda’s family ties
The Wolf Children is a family film about a family. This may help explain while Mamoru Hosoda’s movie was a hit in Japan, something that’s very unusual for a standalone cartoon film not linked to an entrenched brand. A well-rounded portrait of a family offers many ways in for different generations. The Wolf Children is the story of an unassuming ‘ordinary’ mum who must find reserves of superhuman strength; of a rambunctious girl and a troubled boy, each with different relationships to their animal sides; of a magic, mythic love between a human woman and a gentle werewolf; and of everyday, practical living away from city lights and mod-cons.

Giovanni's Island

Jonathan Clements on this season’s classy anime feature
Ever willing to poke around in the interstices of history for children’s stories of the war, the Japanese animation industry alights here on the true story of Hiroshi Tokuno, on whose life story this film is partly based.

The History of Evangelion

Andrew Osmond on the prelude to the First Impact
Evangelion started as Neon Genesis Evangelion, a 26-part TV serial in 1995. It used a familiar Japanese plot template: the teenage boy who drives a giant robot (or in Eva’s case, cyborg), using the huge and frightening body to fight monsters and save Earth. The lyrics of the TV song express the myth. “Like an angel without a sense of mercy / Rise young boy to the heavens as a legend!”

Anime on iTunes

Discover a whole new world of anime on your tablet or phone
There's a whole bunch of Manga Entertainment titles available for direct download on the iTunes site, including Shinji Aramaki's Appleseed, Mamoru Hosoda's Wolf Children, and K-on: The Movie.

Bleach Cosplay: Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez

Paul "Jaeger" Jacques seeks out the best anime costumes
Kasey Lee strikes a pose as Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez, with the telltale Hollow jawbone still hanging on his cheek. Never let it be said this blog is afraid of showing topless cosplay.

Ghost in the Shell: Live-action?

Will it be Robbie the robot...?
Hollywood blog Deadline reports that DreamWorks is in "early talks" with actress Margot Robbie to play the leading role in a live-action version of Ghost in the Shell.
Manga Entertainment Ltd and Animatsu Entertainment Ltd are proud to announce LeSean Thomas as their special guest of honour at this October's MCM London Comic Con.
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